Coherent Systems - Reviews

HiFi News - March 2008

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Zeppelin Diet

That first impression told me that the ‘150 sure has a way with bass control. I’d spent a day swapping between Led Zep on vinyl and the new Mothership CD, so thunderous lower registers were a major part of my diet. The Belleses (is that the plural?) ticked every box, especially evident in Bonham’s percussion as much as through Jones’ bass playing: deep, tight and smear-free when the speed picked up. Above them, Plant’s vocals maintained their requisite ability to cut through the rumbling, while Page...

...aaah, Jimmy Page. Torn as I am between Page, Beck, Clapton and Hendrix in my Killer Guitarist League Table, it’s always wonderful hearing a system that resolves the textures Page brings to the party. And while my tendency is to lean towards Hendrix, I have to credit both Zep’s eponymous debut and Led Zeppelin II with guitar moments that cause countless chills, with tweeters quivering in fear. Belles applied the same rules to the upper frequencies as it did to the bass, and those of you who like to be dazzled by transient attack followed by realistic decay will find the Belles amplifiers more than capable. And the dynamic swings are impressive enough to cope with every track from ‘Good Time Bad Times’ to ‘Kashmir’.

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Capacity for Delicacy

Dial ahead three decades, and Robert Plant’s duet with Alison Krauss provides enough subtlety, atmosphere and ‘air’ to test the Belleses capacity for delicacy. As with pairings such as Ella/Satchmo, Lou Rawls/Dianne Reeves and, yes, Sonny and Cher (don’t laugh), Plant/Krauss is a showcase of contrasts. Aided and abetted by the calibre of musicians that populate the most in-demand studios, the duo has issued an album I’m betting will clean up at the Grammy Awards.

Here, the Belles reveals that wonderful balancing act that allows you to alter your focus from a lone voice to the harmonising. Better still is observing the call-and-response nature of the finest duets; dig out your copy of Rawl’s At Last, select the track ‘Fine Brown Frame’ and try not to grin. Is there a downside? To varying degrees, I’ve heard better transparency and observed wider soundstages. Conversely, the Belles are easy to listen to for hours; I was reminded of the legendary Classé amplifiers of 20 years ago. But that was then and this is now. So a proper audition is mandatory.

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